Friday, October 28, 2016

State of the SkCAN: 2016 Skate Canada Predictions (Men/Dance)

(Scroll further down to get SkCAN Ladies/Pairs predictions OR to find a link to all U.S broadcast/streaming options)


GOLD: Patrick Chan (CAN)
SILVER: Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN)
BRONZE: Takahito Mura (JPN)

DARK HORSE: Daniel Samohin (ISR)

When it comes to Chan vs. Hanyu showdowns… scratch that; I don’t have any stats available (yet). But one thing Chan has pulled off, time and time again, is SkCAN victories. I’m prepared to be completely wrong on this, but in the quad pissing-yet-artistic contest that looks to unfold this weekend in Canada (Chan debuting a quad salchow; Hanyu going for a reported 6 quads between his two programs), I think Chan will emerge on top in his homeland.

Samohin I have for my Dark Horse because last season he emerged as yet another young quad powerhouse (and won Junior Worlds as a result)… BUT… his pre-GP season was bumpy, landing him 6th at one event (Autumn Classic) and 13th at another (Finlandia Trophy). If he can get some of his groove back, he could be a threat for bronze.

Representing the U.S. at SkCAN are Ross Miner and Grant Hochstein—both outstanding skaters that I love to watch, but each has only ONE quad (can you believe we say “only one quad” now?) and neither has been super-consistent with it of late. A top-6 finish for either/both would be lovely; if one of them steps to the podium here, I may have to eat every cookie in the house in celebration.


GOLD: Virtue/Moir (CAN)
SILVER: Cappellini/Lanotte (ITA)
BRONZE: Chock/Bates (USA)

DARK HORSE: Stepanova/Bukin (RUS)  

The jury’s still out on whether or not Davis/White will return to competitive ice dance—I, for one, think they’re doing just fine without it—but Virtue/Moir began their third Olympic journey earlier in the season via Canada’s Autumn Classic (where they won—surprise!). How they will fare amongst the likes of Papa/Ciz (aka the current World Champs) remains to be seen, but I don’t think it’s a stretch to say the 2010 Gold and 2014 Silver Olympic Medalists are back in the mix.

Cappellini/Lanotte defeated both Chock/Bates AND Gilles/Poirier earlier in the season (at Nebelhorn Trophy), which is why I’m choosing them for SkCAN’s silver spot.

C/B are using a Christopher Dean-choreo’d version of the Queen/Bowie classic “Under Pressure” for their FD. Let me know if you’re a fan—the edits/mixes they chose are somewhat non-traditional (at least they were when I saw it at Nebelhorn), but I really liked it. From what I heard, though, some “Pressure” purists were less than pleased.

State of the SkCAN: 2016 Skate Canada Predictions (Ladies/Pairs)

Unlike last week at Skate America, 2016 Skate Canada will be packing all the disciplines into just two days (Friday 10/28 and Saturday 10/29)!

Again, here is an all-inclusive (for U.S., at least) viewer’s guide if you need it:

And again, the event starts with Ladies and Pairs so let me hit those first…


GOLD: Evgenia Medvedeva (RUS)
SILVER: Satoko Miyahara (JPN)
BRONZE: Mirai Nagasu (USA)

DARK HORSE: Kaetlyn Osmond (CAN) or Elizaveta Tuktamysheva (RUS)

Heavy hitters, anyone? (And I’m not even talking about the men yet, so Patrick (Chan) and Yuzuru (Hanyu), please have a seat and wait until I call. Thanks.) Now, where was I?

Medvedeva is the reigning World Champ and has already followed up this season with the highest individual score among the women at Japan Open.

Miyahara is the 2015 World Silver Medalist who came in right behind Medvedeva at Japan Open and won the U.S. International Classic earlier in the season.

Nagasu is the veteran Olympian/World competitor with four GP medals who is coming off of two medal-winning events from this year’s pre-GP season (bronze at Lombardia Trophy and gold at Autumn Classic). AND… I’m liking her programs better this season than I have in years (maybe she is too?), which is why I’m picking her for bronze over others, including…

Osmond, who won this event four years ago but had a miserable time at it last year in her first GP event after a injury-forced season out. This season has started in more promising fashion, considering she won Finlandia Trophy a few weeks back. I think of her more of a Wild Card than a Dark Horse, to be honest.

And we can’t forget Tuktamysheva, who took gold over Miyahara at the 2015 Worlds but has struggled since that magical season. So far the new “year” has been hot and cold for her—a silver at Nebelhorn behind last week’s SkAM bronze medalist Mai Mihara, but down to 4th at Finlandia.

NOTE: Veronik Mallet (CAN) has scratched from SkCAN within the past few days due to injury.


GOLD: Duhamel/Radford (CAN)
SILVER: Kavaguti/Smirnov (RUS)
BRONZE: Iliusheckina/Moscovitch (CAN)


Du/Rad is 5-for-5 in terms of reaching the SkCAN podium in the past five years, and 2-for-2 in terms of winning it in the past two years. So yeah, I like my odds here. (And using Seal’s “Killer” for their SP is a stroke of genius too.)

I type up “Kava/Smir” and yes, the first thing I ask myself is just how flippin’ old is Yuko now??? (I didn’t say I was proud of it…) She’ll be 35 next month, and she’s still too busy being tougher than she looks to care. (Smirnov is 32 himself, so they’re both in Pang/Tong land at this point.) A ruptured tendon for Yuko took them out of the running for Euros and beyond last season, but (of course) she has bounced back yet again and they proved it with a silver medal at Ondrej Nepela Trophy (last week’s SkAM Bronze Medalists, Tarasova/Morozov, won gold over them).  

And Iliusheckina/Moscovitch finished 7th in their second visit to Worlds last season (besting a 13th place finish in their Worlds debut), plus they won silver at Nebelhorn Trophy in the pre-GP season behind World Bronze Medalists Savchenko/Massot. So I think the time may be right for their first GP medal together, and doing so on Canadian ice would be a nice touch as well.

However—don’t forget about Yu/Zhang. Yu-who??? you may be wondering… because if you’re anything like me, you forgot that the Chinese skating federation switched up their top pairs teams in the off-season. That means “Yu” is former of Yu/Jin, and “Zhang” is the Same Old 30-something Zhang that’s been competing GP pairs for China since about 1971*… most recently, with Peng Cheng (who I often referred to jokingly as “his niece”). How will THIS pairing go? I can’t wait to see…

P.S. Last week’s SkAM Silver Medalists Denney/Frazier are the sole U.S. pairs rep here; given the stiff competition I’ve just described, I think a top-5 finish might be the best they can muster.

MEN and DANCE predictions coming later this afternoon…!!

* Or 2002. I get things mixed up.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

2016 Skate America Post-Mortem: 7 (!) U.S. Medals and Much, Much More

Before I get into my Skate America notes, a word about skating fantasy leagues… actually, four words: I don’t do them. I’ve looked at the basics of one league or another from time to time, and they look like a lot of fun—but they also tend to require more of my free time than I’m willing to give up. (And if you follow this blog with any regularity you know how difficult it is for me at times to simply keep this updated! I really shouldn’t be taking any other skating tasks on, should I?)

Having said all that, I present the little scoring system I’ve devised for my own predictions that may or may not be fantasy-similar (How is it that I haven’t done this before now??):

3 points per correctly placed podium name
2 points per correctly predicted podium name
1 point per Dark Horse that reaches the podium (1/2 a point if I listed 2 Dark Horses)

So of 36 possible points, I managed 20 with my SkAM predictions—4 for the men, 5 for the ladies, 4 for the pairs, and 7 for dance. Lots of room for improvement! And I hope to step it forward with my Skate Canada predictions, which will be out Thursday or Friday (the first event, the ladies SP, hits at 2:57 ET). But before we get there, here are some of the things that snared my attention at 2016 Skate America:


Jason Brown’s quad toe vs. Adam Rippon’s quad toe is an awesome conversation I didn’t expect anyone to be having, yet there it was, the comparison of Brown’s 1st-ever-in-competition 4T (deemed UR by the judges) with Rippon’s 4T-not-4Lz, on which he took a fall but was still deemed fully rotated. Jason DID score higher, but the lower base value made it only a 6.97 over Rippon’s 6.30.

But Shoma Uno had quad toes (and quad flips!!) and overall components that kept him well in charge of the SkAM title this year, so let’s instead savor the artistic value of both Brown’s “Scent of Love” FS (a holdover from last season, given that he barely got to use it), another lovely step in his maturity… and Rippon’s “Birdman” FS, which is not officially called “Birdman” but I’m going with it anyway. Remember when Akiko Suzuki became a bird via her 2012-13 free skate? Rippon’s program shows us the human male embodiment of birds is just as intriguing.  And in the SkAM field deep with quad jumpers of note (Jin, Voronov, Kovtun), Rippon still managed to skate his two successful quad-less programs all the way to his first GP medal (bronze) in three years and his fourth GP medal overall.


Ashley Wagner speaks often of how she prefers the underdog role in competition, but with a World silver medal now in her cache, being the underdog is bound to be tougher to come by. Fortunately she does well as a “favorite” too, as she proved over the weekend. No, she didn’t win the FS outright; that honor went to teammate and new rink-mate Mariah Bell, who made her 8th-place debut at last year’s SkAM a distant memory with her soaring “East of Eden” program, complete with a landed 3Lz and a 3Lz/3T. But Wagner’s far-above-average components are beyond dispute at this point in her career. “Exogenesis Part 3” might be forever connected to Jeremy Abbott, but Wagner is certainly making a beautiful case for the female representation of that music.

Bell is working with the same choreographer (Rohene Ward) as she had for last year’s FS, but left Kori Ade in the off-season to begin training in California with Rafael Arutyunyan (Wagner & Rippon's coach). One of the things that has held her from the top spots in the past was her inability to deliver her toughest jump—the triple lutz and its brutal cousin the 3Lz/3T—consistently. At SkAM, she landed them all with relative ease and a Cinderella story sprang out of nowhere. Has she turned the corner? There were Twitter rumblings that Bell should now be assigned to fill the Rostelecom Cup void created when Polina Edmunds withdrew, but that slot appears to be re-assigned to Armenian skater Anastasia Galustyan. Hopefully USFS has another scenario in mind…

As for Gracie Gold—there is more to say about her and her skating and her state of mind right now than I have time to address properly. But if you check out THIS British Eurosport coverage of her free skate, you’ll hear some good insight shared during the replays. And if you listen closely when Gold and Frank Carroll are awaiting scores (about 7:09 into the video to be specific) you’ll hear her speak even more bluntly about her perceived weight issues than she did in THIS USA TODAY article. She clarified a lot of her statements a day later via Instagram, and I’m hopeful the whole thing was more about her being very hard on herself than actually having a long-term body image issue. But for better or worse, the skating community is all the more likely this season to pay attention to what’s happening with Gracie both ON and OFF the ice. If her skating at SkAM didn’t put them on notice, her words certainly did. 

(I’m running out of time—out of practice with these quick Grand Prix season turnarounds!—so the pairs & dance notes will have to be very short this time…)


1)      I’m very glad Seguin/Bilodeau won (even if I didn’t predict it). Those two CLICK like few pairs teams competing these days, and I truly hope they’ll stay healthy and cohesive long enough to have a chance to take the reins once Canada’s Duhamel/Radford call it a day (post PyeongChang, I’m assuming).
2)      After so much grumbling about the state of U.S. pairs, I’m quite happy to have underestimated Denney/Frazier (who missed last season due to injury). They skated a solid pair of programs to earn podium silver when the higher-risk programs from France and Russia didn’t pan out. But D/F take on an arguably stronger field when they compete at Skate Canada this weekend, and they’ll need more difficult throws and SBS jumps if they want a shot at being competitive. (More about this when I post predictions tomorrow.)


The ShibSibs’ free dance was probably one of the more eagerly anticipated “reveals” of this early part of the season, especially since they opted to keep their musical selections to themselves as long as humanly possible! They had a Herculean task in creating an effective follow-up to “Fix You”, particularly since so many of us felt it was the first time they’d really been able to connect at a deeper level. And there may some winning-over necessary for some. I get that. Evolution (what they’ve named their new FD program) has a much quieter, more subtle kind of energy than “Fix You” possessed… and to some, it might be a let-down. But particularly when I think about what they’ve brought us in the past vs. what they can bring us now, I’m on board to watch this one… um… evolve.

Friday, October 21, 2016

State of the SKAM: Men and Ice Dance Predictions

If you're looking for Ladies and Pairs predictions you'll want to scroll down a bit... otherwise, here come some 2016 Skate America Men and Ice Dance predictions... 


GOLD: Shoma Uno (JPN)
SILVER: Jin Boyang (CHN)
BRONZE: Sergei Voronov (RUS)

DARK HORSE: Jason Brown (USA)

Uno made a huge splash last season… right up until he semi-tanked his Worlds FS. But his Japan Open performance a few weeks ago shows him to be in fine competitive shape. Full disclosure: I predicted Uno to win this LAST year too, and he ended up 2nd behind the then-surging Max Aaron (who I picked as a Dark Horse). I stand by my decision to stand by Uno, and it’s not even because we won’t see Aaron again until Rostelecom Cup...

I’m going with Boyang for silver as more of a “body of work” vote because, frankly, I haven’t seen him skate lately. If he lost his quad lutz/triple toe over the summer, the podium will be a different story. But dang, what a jumper.

Why Voronov over Kovtun? Because they were in the same “B” a few weeks ago and Voronov, as mildly appalled as I am that he’s using “Exogenesis” (yes, the music used by Jeremy Abbott in Sochi and a similar cut to Ashley Wagner’s current FS), must admit that he skated with quads and skated fairly clean. Kovtun, to say the least, did not. It could be an opposite story at SKAM, to be sure—neither one has been consistent of late. But that’s where I’m coming from here.

Brown always gets the component scores, and based on what I’ve seen so far this season, that hasn’t changed. As for his quad—he’s attempting it regularly now and getting closer, but still has yet to land one when it counts. Whether he does so at SKAM could make the difference between “dark horse” and “medalist”.

And for those wondering, I don’t have Adam Rippon in the podium mix for the same reasons he wasn’t in the Worlds podium mix… love his work; wish he could get that quad lutz. (Or any quad. But getting that lutz would be awesome.) Also, believe it or not Rippon is only 3 for 14 in terms of career senior GP medals… and only one of those came within the last five years. Maybe his U.S. title will change things. Can’t wait to see!


GOLD: Shibutani/Shibutani (USA)
SILVER: Hubbell/Donohue (USA)
BRONZE: Guignard/Fabbri (ITA)

DARK HORSE: Bobrova/Soloviev (RUS)

Here we have the super-secretive Shib Sibs, one of the few dance teams here (maybe the only one?) that did not compete a “B” event in skating’s pre-season. As I write this, Wikipedia only has the Shibs’ FD program as “Evolution”, with all the music listed as TBD. But not to worry; they seem to be in that “they-could-skate-to-a-reading-of-the-phone-book-and-still-kill-it” phase of their career, so more power to them! Also, I hope it’s awesome because I’m choosing them to win sight unseen.

Hub/Don, on the other hand, have already put some miles on their programs this season. The hip-hop portion of their SD had about 5 more songs within its medley than I thought were necessary, but their “Love” FD medley is one I already prefer to last year’s effort. I’ve got them in second, but heard Zach has been ill this week so I guess it might be a victory for them if they simply avoid scratching the event…

And yes, I went out on a limb with my prediction for bronze… it might be wishful thinking on my part, given that the Italians’ FD music is the ever-uplifting “Pas de Deux” from Nutcracker and Bob/Solo are using the Chopin piece that will always leave me saying you should have used Manilow’s adaptation (aka “Could it Be Magic”) instead! But Guig/Fab DID win Lombardia this year, and were 4th in both their GP assignments last year, so a medal is certainly not out of the question for them…

That’s it for SKAM predictions! Follow me on Twitter (@KLBSt8ofSk8) so we can follow all the Skate America shenanigans together! 

STATE OF THE SKAM (Skate America): Ladies & Pairs

Are you ready?
Are you in Chicago, following Skate America in person?
If not, do you know when and where to follow along?

Here’s a guide (IceNetwork, NBC and Universal HD included) if you need it.

First up, Friday night… Ladies and Pairs SPs! That’s where I start with my predictions:


GOLD: Ashley Wagner (USA)
SILVER: Mai Mihara (JPN)
BRONZE: Gracie Gold (USA)

DARK HORSE: Mao Asada (JPN) or Serafima Sakhanovich (RUS)

Wagner’s senior GP history is pretty impressive, as I've said in the past: she’s made the podium 12 times (with 4 victories)… and that’s not even including 5 appearances (and 3 medals) at the GP Finals! Again, basing my SKAM predictions on what I’ve witnessed so far this season (not to mention that stunning GP pedigree of hers), I think this is Ashley’s to lose. The only thing NOT in her corner may be her own concerns about “peaking” at the wrong time. She alluded to it in her appearance on the premiere Ice Talk podcast (new from IceNetwork! Give it a listen—great content and none of the live streaming issues we’ve grown too accustomed to!)… let’s see if she seems to hold back, and how it affects her placement if she does.

If there’s an upset to be had, keep an eye out for 17 year-old GP newcomer Mai Mihara of Japan. She spent three years in the junior GP ranks, reaching the JGP last year, but it’s her recent win at Nebelhorn Trophy (over 2015 World Champ Liza Tuktamysheva, among others) that got my attention. Her triples and 3/3 combos, including a 3 lutz/3 toe, were spot on… and her artistry appears to be coming along nicely. Like the Russian ladies, the pool of top Japanese women continues to be a deep one… so whether Mihara shines for the long haul remains to be seen. But this GP season could be her breakout time for sure.
Bronze is tough. Gold is 6-for-8 (with 2 wins) on GP podiums; Asada is 17-for-20 (with 11 wins)! I’m rooting for Gold to skate well enough for this particular podium because she looked to still be haunted by the Worlds 2016 ghost at the Japan Open… she’s got to shake that off ASAP (paging Gracie’s friend Taylor Swift). BUT if she can’t get it done, Asada’s back in there. (She might be “back in there” anyway; her programs to “ Ritual Fire Dance” this season are stunners.)


GOLD: Tarasova/Morozov (RUS)
SILVER: Seguin/Bilodeau (CAN)
BRONZE: James/Cipres (FRA)

DARK HORSE: Astakhova/Rogonov (RUS)

Let me start by saying if RockerSkating’s Jackie Wong admits the SKAM pairs event is a toss-up, you know we’re all struggling on this one.

Here’s what I think I know:
+      Tarasova/Morozov finished 5th at Boston Worlds, and are bringing a quad twist into the picture this season  (debuting it at Ondrej Nepela Trophy a few weeks ago)
+      Seguin/Bilodeau were sidelined by injury late last season, but are back now and already won the Autumn Classic.
+      James/Cipres finally took home a GP medal last year, but it was at the abbreviated-due-to-tragedy Trophee Bompard. I’m sure they’re itching to still win one “outright”. Considering they finished right behind Seguin/Bilodeau at the Autumn classic, I’m most definitely rooting for this possibility.
+      Astakhova/Rogonov have yet to really dig into the senior circuit (10th at Worlds in 2014; didn’t qualify last year), but were (a distant) 2nd to Duhamel/Radford at the recent Finlandia Trophy… and probably have an above-average shot at a medal here.
+      Yes, the U.S. has three pairs teams at SKAM: Denney/Frazier (out all last season due to injury)… current national champs Kayne/O’Shea… and Castelli/Tran. All three have been through a “B” event this fall; Castelli/Tran fared best with a bronze at the Autumn Classic.
+      NO, I’m not predicting any of our teams for a medal. So… many… side-by-side… jumps…failed… by…our… pairs. That’s why. All the glorious lifts in the world won’t change this fact! Sorry if that seems harsh, but facts are facts. If one of these teams can rise above the fray (or two! Or three!), I’ll be sure to shout it from this blog next week.  

Stay tuned for Men’s and Dance predictions!

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Please Allow Me to (Re)Introduce Myself....

Me and my daughter at the rink in early 2012.
She's a LOT taller now!!
Hellooooo skating fans!

It’s been so long since I completed a post, I almost feel a need to re-introduce myself. So allow me to (almost) do just that…

+      My name is Kelli, and this is my blog… established 2008.

+      I’ve been a fan of figure skating since watching Dorothy Hamill at the 1976 Innsbruck Olympics, and skated competitively myself from 1979-82.

+      I wrote a book about the broadcast history of the sport called Skating on Air, published in 2011. You might see a pic of the cover there on your screen somewhere. It’s pretty good. You should read it if you haven’t already :-)

+      I come from a family that holds sports in high regard: Dad played baseball, basketball, and football (at least 2 of the 3 at the collegiate level)… my oldest brother is a swim coach and has been to multiple Olympics on behalf of USA Swimming… one of my sisters is an official at track & field events all across the country… and my youngest brother played pro baseball for 10 years, including 6 glorious weeks in The Majors (for the Pittsburgh Pirates) in 1998. In fact, he has two teenage sons who are promising baseball players as well… and I have a niece who just a few days ago finished in the top 100 for her age group at the Chicago Marathon and qualified for next spring’s Boston Marathon! Generations of serious athletes there!
+      My husband is one of the biggest open-wheel racing fans you’ll find, and with good reason—he grew up about 10 minutes from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a.k.a. home of the INDY 500. So I consider myself an Indycar-Racing-Fan-By-Marriage. (And a sort of basketball-fan-by-marriage too, as I think it’s a Hoosier rule. Go (Butler Bull) Dawgs!)

+      I’ve got two teenage kids of my own. One is a sophomore who plays second marimba in his high school marching band; the other is a 7th-grader who studies dance (non-competitively) and is about to get fitted for her first-ever pair of pointe shoes. Neither has been bitten by the skating bug, but given what I think I know about the cost of the sport—and what I KNOW I know about the costs of their current activities—I have to say I’m relieved.

+      As for me… I’ve been known to hit a low-level freestyle session at the nearest ice rink from time to time, but those times have wound down to nearly nothing in the past few years, I’m sorry to say. There are lots of reasons, but just about all of them are boring so I won’t spill them here! My fantasy life has me getting back to the rink in the future… getting my double-jumps back AND taking up school figures again (!!), something the 11 year-old me can’t understand… and making my mark on the “adult” competitive circuit. (But don’t hold your breath for any of that—it’s a fantasy for a reason!)

+     In the real world, my time is galvanized by three things: the work I’m paid to do, the work I’m not paid to do (a.k.a. household stuff), and transporting the kids here and there and (some days it feels like) everywhere. It might be very similar to the way your time is galvanized, or used to be galvanized, or will be in the future. The caveat, in my case, is that I seem to be markedly slower at getting it all done than most people… which leaves less time for things like this blog.

+      I DO write for a living, but aside from the aforementioned book and some skating-related articles that were published about a decade ago, you probably aren’t familiar with my work because it’s largely been B2B (business-to-business) magazines the past few years.

+      In an increasingly distant life I was also part of the video industry—not just the scripts, but as a grip, a prompter operator, a director, a producer, and everything in between. No big-time stuff, but enough to give me my share of interesting anecdotes. If I get a memoir written, watch out…

So, that’s some stuff to know.
Now, just a few things to mention about STATE OF THE SKATE before I call this a blog post:

+     Despite appearances to the contrary in recent months, I very much plan to keep this blog going through the 2016-17 season and beyond (God willing).

+      Many aspects of it are outdated at the moment, both in terms of links and of appearance (mostly because, as I say, it’s been around 8 years). I know this, and hope to make improvements in the coming months. I’ll probably even solicit suggestions! Stay tuned.

+      There’s a lot to be said for developments in the figure skating world since I last updated the blog, and I hope to address many of them… but as you probably know, we are just days away now from the start of SENIOR GRAND PRIX SEASON!!!! So all that off-season/pre-season fussing will have to wait a little longer.

That’s it for now. Whether you’re a new reader looking for some wisdom along the lines of skating journalist extraordinaire Jackie Wong (yikes, tall order), or a returning reader hoping I’ll be able to help you keep all the teenage Russian and/or Japanese skating starlets apart (a viewer’s guide to such is on the table for SOTS consideration), I hope you’ll keep coming back as often as I can manage to give you reason to do so!